Belfast Boy @ Spotlites (The Merchant's Hall)
The audience takes their seats. The room darkens. A chair stands out in the spotlight. Then, from the edge of the room, Martin Hall, played by Declan Perring, shuffles out on to the stage. He begins the introductions as he edges towards his assigned seat, but then suddenly his sentence breaks into a series of stammered apologies: he becomes overcome with fear that he has revealed too much. For he has in fact been invited for a session in a therapist’s office after a bout of insomnia. As Hall begins his story, directing his voice to a distant point at the back of the room, the audience becomes his psychologist.
Based on real events that occurred in Hall’s life, the playwright Kat Woods has managed to weave such incidents into a poignant play that grips the audience with every new breath of dialogue that is beautifully executed by Perring. It is easily tempting to forget that Perring is in fact playing a role, for the actor gives a most convincing performance as he recites fond memories of his childhood with laughter before recalling his unpleasant past with utter distraught emotion.
The audience travels a tidal wave of emotions with Hall as he dregs up his arduous upbringing in his Northern-Irish family of 11 children. Yet after all his suffering, he manages to keep ‘the glass is half-full’ approach to life. Be sure to have your hands ready to clap when the session comes to an end, as Perring’s performance truly deserves for your hands to ache.